Dos, don’ts and common misconceptions
Dos and don'ts
Schools should continue to:
- align self-evaluation work to school improvement as an integrated process
- develop a learning culture that promotes continuous improvement aimed at realising the four purposes
- use evidence-based practice to innovate and improve
- be reflective, open and honest
- reflect on and refine self-evaluation activities
- make evaluation for and about the school and its learners
- involve and listen to all staff, learners, parents/carers, governors and other stakeholders
- use a good range of approaches to gather reliable evidence
- use data proportionately alongside first-hand evidence
- share effective practice within and between schools
- retain and build on existing and effective practice
- keep progress against improvement priorities under review
- work with peers to support their own and others’ practice
To enable this to happen, schools should avoid:
- focusing solely on the quality of paperwork
- making self-evaluation an event (rather than a continuous process)
- separating self-evaluation from other school improvement processes
- focusing on a narrow range of data
- making self-evaluation the responsibility of senior leaders only
- judging everything
- making things appear better than they are
- working solely for an external audience
Of course, self-evaluation systems will not on their own lead to improvement unless the school:
- analyses and synthesises findings from a wide range of activities in order to ‘triangulate’ the evidence
- uses its conclusions to identify specific improvement priorities
- carefully plans actions to bring about improvements in these areas and considers carefully how and when it will monitor and evaluate progress made
- has a clear picture of what it plans to achieve
- uses its self-evaluation processes to evaluate the progress made against its improvement priorities
Self-evaluation and improvement planning should not be seen as two separate activities; they are integrated features of effective school improvement processes.
Common pitfalls and misconceptions
- This tells the school that certain activities are being carried out, but not how much impact they are having on learning.
- It creates a ‘compliance culture’ where certain specific approaches (e.g. mini-plenaries or self-assessment) have to be delivered, regardless of their relevance or appropriateness.
- It can promote the expectation that everything (e.g. four purposes of the curriculum, literacy, numeracy, Welsh language development, etc.) should be covered in every lesson.
- It doesn’t help the school to identify specific areas for development or professional learning needs.
- This does not help the school to evaluate the impact that teaching has on learning.
- It can encourage a ‘showboating’ or ‘bells and whistles’ approach which may not reflect long-term learning.
- This does not help the school to reach a broad, accurate understanding of the effectiveness of its provision.
- It does not support individual, departmental or whole-school professional learning well enough.
- It can make these activities very ‘high stakes’ and have a negative impact on staff well-being.
- This can create resentment, have a negative impact on staff well-being and does not support a positive culture of development and improvement.
- It can focus the school’s attention on the documentation itself at the expense of its evaluation of learning.
- It can take time away from more valuable activities to support improvement.
- This does not give the school a clear understanding of specific strengths or areas for development in teaching and learning, which makes it difficult to plan effectively for improvement.
- It can lead the school to focus too much on one type of evaluative activity and not consider a wide enough range of evidence about learning.
- It does not support professional learning well enough.
- It may not recognise where improvements have been made.
- It can make evaluative activities very ‘high stakes’ and have a negative impact on staff well-being.
- This can give the school an inaccurate picture of the impact of its provision.
- It does not identify specific areas for development or professional learning needs well enough.
- It makes it difficult for the school to plan effectively for improvement.